Whether a casual visitor or expert adventurer, exploring these Malaysian caves will leave you awestruck at these gigantic wonders.
Malaysia is a country of numerous natural wonders, which also include a collection of impressive cave formations. Found all over the country, these caves each contain fascinating structures as well as flora and fauna unique to their surroundings. Exploring the caves of Malaysia is a great way to discover more of its natural beauty, from caves that are easy to discover on foot and without having to go in too deep to those that will provide adventurers with hours of caving fun. From the ever-popular Batu Caves to the majestic Gua Niah system of caves, here are some of the caves in Malaysia worth your time and sweat!
Every year, the complex of caves known as the Batu Caves hosts one of the biggest gatherings of Hindu devotees in the world during the festival of Thaipusam as the caves is home to a Hindu temple and a gigantic statue of the deity Lord Murugan. Having undergone a rather recent makeover, the rainbow-hued 272 steps to the top of the caves can be considered an attraction in itself but, of course, you’ll also want to visit the inside of the caves. Batu Caves is essentially a limestone hill which houses three main caves and a number of smaller ones. The 100-metre high ceilinged Cathedral Cave is where several Hindu shrines are housed, and is the largest and most popular cave. However, the Dark Cave, which is located just slightly below the main Cathedral Cave, is home to one of the rarest spiders in the world – the trapdoor spider – as well as to bats, a snake, and various insects that are endemic to Batu Caves. However, the Dark Cave is currently not open to the public, but if you’re at Batu Caves and would like to add in a bit of adventure after a tour of the shrines, the Damai caves in the Northeastern part of the area is perfect for some rock climbing, while abseiling and spelunking activities can be organised via tour agencies.
Gua Niah, or the Niah Caves’ initial claim to fame is the discovery of a Palaeolithic human skull from 40,000 years ago, along with ancient cave paintings, burial “deathships” and Neolithic burial sites from 2,500 to 5,000 years ago, discovered within between 1957 and 1967. However, the Niah Caves’ colossal underground chambers themselves are impressive enough; able to fit a couple of Notre Dame Cathedrals stacked on top of one another. One of the caves, known as the Great Cave houses one of the world’s most spectacular cave entrances, and it leads to an even larger chamber. Meanwhile, the adjacent Painted Caves is home to the cave paintings and “death-ships” - contents of these ”death-ships” have since been transferred to the care of the Sarawak state museum, but you could still view the cave paintings and some of the empty ”death-ships” on the wall behind the fenced-off burial site. Getting to the Niah Caves is fairly easy by road, from either the cities of Miri or Bintulu. Renting a car and driving yourself to the caves means that you can choose to stop by some nice beaches along the way.
Gua Nasib Bagus (the Good Luck Cave) located within the Mulu National Park is home to one of the world’s largest natural underground chamber. Named the Sarawak Chamber, it measures 600m, 415m and 80m in length, width and height respectively. To get to this chamber, visitors would need to follow a river upstream from the cave entrance. This requires a bit of swimming and a trek along a ledge with a trained guide. Its home, the Mulu National Park is also recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site for its unique biodiversity and karst features.
As one of the largest caves in Peninsular Malaysia, this 4.5 kilometres-long cave was once a hideout for communist guerrillas during the Malayan Emergency years (1948-1960). It derived the ‘tempurung’ (coconut shell in Malay) moniker, due to the coconut shell-like shape of some of the ceiling caves. Gua Tempurung is mostly comprised of limestone, but it is also home to small deposits of precious minerals including tin and marble. Only 1.9 kilometres of the cave is accessible to the public, and a part of this section has been developed as a show cave, lined with electric lighting, paved paths and steel railings. However, if the easy stroll on boardwalks is too vanilla for your taste, you can also book a spelunking adventure with a number of local tour agents.
Located within the largest limestone outcrop in the Lower Kinabatangan area, this cave system is best known for their highly-valuable edible swiftlet nests - the trading of these nests in the area having been traced back to the 13th century. The cave system consists of two cave complexes, namely Simud Hitam (Black Cave) and Simud Putih (White Cave). The caves’ ceilings house millions of bats, while the floor is home to various insects. Do note that only Simud Hitam is open to the general public while accessing Simud Putih, which houses the valuable swiftlet nests, requires actual caving experience and equipment.
With caves suitable for various degrees of caving skills - whether you are into the more extreme forms of caving or just up for casual exploration of the caves, there’s something for every visitor when it comes to caving in Malaysia. All you have to do is choose the cave adventure best suited for you, and you’re all set to go forth and start conquering!